Sea Scallops: First Look at 2019 Season

Sea Scallops: First Look at 2019 Season

Yesterday the New England Fishery Management Council announced key information regarding the upcoming US scallop season. While it still needs to be approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, we expect that it will be approved as submitted, as is often the case. The information below summarizes the release and reflects our first impression of the data.

The short version:
The Council is calling for the same amount of scallops in the 2019 season as the 2018 season, but it appears that the catch of U10 and U12 scallops could potentially decline, and it also implies that the Council expects lower catches per day in open area fishing.

The details:
Things we noticed in the release (Here are the releases for next season and the prior one for this season)

  • The NEFMC expects landings of “roughly 60 million pounds” of scallops in the upcoming 2019 season, which is the same as projected for landings in the current 2018 season.
  • Maintaining 24 open-area days at sea fishing days, the same as the current season
  • Increasing to seven closed-area fishing trips of 18,000lbs, up from six
  • The closed area fishing trips include:
    • Mid-Atlantic – 3 trips
    • Nantucket Lightship West – 3 trips
    • Flex Trip (choice of Mid-Atlantic, Nantucket Lightship West, or Closed Area 1 – 1 trip

The Council’s release makes us wonder if U10 and U12 landings will decline in 2019. 

  • According to our estimates, the areas in the 2018 season that produced the most U10s and U12s are Closed Area 1 and Nantucket Light Ship South (~50% of the catch in each of these areas qualified).
  • In 2018, vessels received one trip each into these areas, for a total of two trips into U10 and U12-rich fishing areas
  • Looking to 2019, there are three trips to Mid-Atlantic (~15% of catch in ’18 was U10 or U12), and three trips into Nantucket Light Ship West (~25% of catch in ’18 was U10 or U12), and one flex trip that can go to one of those two catch areas or Closed Area 1 (which was a more U10 or U12-rich fishing ground in ’18)
  • Overall, it looks like the trips to areas that have the most plentiful big scallops was reduced from two down to one (if, for example, all boats use their flex trips to go to CA1), which could** put some pressure on large scallop landings year-over-year
  • **It is important to note that the size range of closed areas can change year-to-year, meaning we could see more or less U10 and U12s coming out of these fishing areas in 2019. As such, even with what the Council is saying, we can’t take for granted that the catch of U10s and U12s will be down

If scallop season plays out as the Council suggests, 10-20 and 20-30 scallop landings will be similar to what we see this season

  • With the Council calling for 60 million pounds of landings, which they note is similar to last year, the implication is that although we may see some decrease in U10 and U12 scallops, the catch of 10-20 and 20-30 count scallops will be similar next season to what we see today.

The Council’s release implies a lower catch per day in open areas

  • The Council is calling for ~60m pounds of landings, which is the same as what they call for in the 2018 season.
  • In the 2019 season, they are keeping the open area fishing days stable at 24, and increasing the closed area fishing trips to seven, while maintaining the amount of scallops that can be landed in the closed areas at 18,000lbs per trip
  • Knowing that there is more closed area catch “quota,” the same number of open area days, and the same amount of scallops expected to be landed overall next season, together implies that the Council expects the catch per day in the open areas to decline

In closing:
The information we put together in this note reflects our initial read of the Council’s release and relies on their estimates, not our own. As we have time to digest this release and to also look at the information regarding imports of scallops to the US and exports of scallops from the US, we will put together and share our scallop market factbook (the one we did last year can be found here).